After an extended search that included candidates from all over the nation, Mel Riddile has been chosen as the next principal of T.C. Williams High School. The School Board expects to finalize the decision at its Tuesday meeting, with Riddile assuming his new job in July. He will be leaving his current job as principal of J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, where he has working for the past nine years. Riddile said that Stuart and T.C. Williams are similar schools with similar demographics.
“It’s the kind of school I like,” said Riddile, noting that both schools have students that speak more than 60 languages. “I like the diversity. It’s normal to me.”
A native of Burgettstown, Penn., Riddile graduated from Burgettstown High School in 1968. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina, a master’s degree from George Mason University and a doctorate in education from the George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. He and his wife, Marianne, live in Fairfax. His son is a junior studying business at the University of Florida and his daughter works for Delex Systems in Vienna.
“Today, education is about what you know and what you can do,” he said, adding that the profession of education has radically changed since he took his first administration job in 1974. “It used to be that teaching was the focus. Now, it’s about learning.”
Last year, Riddile was named Principal of the Year by the National Association of School Principals and MetLife. He describes his philosophy as a mix of experimentation and perseverance, pushing students and raising expectations.
“It isn’t about ability,” he said. “It’s about time and timing.”
Riddile said that if teachers and parents invest the necessary time with students, they will exceed expectations.
“A lot of time, their literacy levels are holding them back,” said Riddile, who serves of the National Governor’s Association Adolescent Literacy Advisory Panel. “I want to make sure that every child has the chance to succeed.”
School Board Chairwoman Molly Danforth said the division is eager to bring Riddile into the fold.
“The superintendent made him an offer he couldn’t refuse,” she said, adding that Riddile will be paid $133,000 a year. “A lawyer with his level of experience would probably be earning between $600,000 to $1 million a year.”
As the high school’s new principal, Riddile will oversee the transition from the old 1960s-era building to a new $98.9-million facility that is currently being built.
“From everything I know about T.C. Williams, the facility is going to have to catch up to the staff,” Riddile said.
Long-time principal John Porter will join the central administration on Beauregard Street to take a newly created position as assistant superintendent of administration and public relations. He will oversee the departments of food services, transportation and facilities as well as spearhead public relations efforts.
Superintendent Rebecca Perry plans to make other changes in July, including a reorganization of some of the division’s top departments. Cathy David, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, will become deputy superintendent. Jay Johnson, assistant superintendent for finance and administrative services, will retire in April — with Porter taking his administration duties and Leslie Peterson taking a new role as executive director of budget and finance.